One of SCCA's oldest classes, E Production (EP) has seen a lot of changes over the years, and it has been a part of every Runoffs event in SCCA history. That legacy continues at the 57th SCCA® National Championship Runoffs® on Road America’s 4.048-mile, 14-turn circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Twenty drivers qualified, most running Mazda and BMW models in a field once dominated by British sports cars.
This year's Tire Rack Pole Award winner was three-time national champion Jesse Prather of Topeka, Kansas, driving the No. 34 JPM/Hoosier/Carbotech/Sunoco 1999 BMW Z3 2.5-liter. Next to Prather in second place on grid was three-time champion Jon Brakke of Fargo, North Dakota in the Margaret Peterson Bars 1999 Mazda Miata.
The second row on grid started with 2019 second-place EP finisher and Kimberly Cup recipient John Hainsworth of Marlton, New Jersey in the No. 95 Maximum Attack/Hoosier/Carbotech 1990 Mazda RX-7, and three-time champion Matt Reynolds of Fair Oaks, Texas qualified fourth in the Reynolds Brothers Racing 1999 Mazda Miata.
Prather grabbed an early lead at the green flag, while Brakke got caught up in the charge for the front and shuffled back several positions. Hainsworth claimed the second place slot, and Reynolds took up third position. Tim Schreyer of Dubuque, Iowa moved up from his fifth-place starting position to take up fourth in the No. 28 Schreyer Motorsports/Hoosier 1987 BMW 325is.
However, the EP field was not content to settle in and drive smooth laps. Reynolds came back hard in the first lap, pushing Hainsworth back to third. Behind Schreyer, Cameron Wogrin of Littleton, Colorado was running in the fifth spot, piloting the larger and heavier No. 181 1997 BMW 328is, but he soon got by Schreyer and reclaimed the fourth spot. Brakke remained in sixth place.
It was a three-way race until the third lap, when Hainsworth tried to get around Reynolds and went wide in Turn 8 amid a cloud of tire smoke. "I locked up the brakes in Turn 8 and just sailed off," Hainsworth said. After that I just tried to run consistent laps and not make any more mistakes." With Hainsworth now about 5 seconds back, Prather and Reynolds drove away from the rest of the field.
Meanwhile, the battle for the spots just off the podium raged behind the leaders. Jon Brakke was looking for a way to get his Miata around the larger BMWs, but the six-cylinder engines of the German cars made it hard to get a good run. Brakke made it around Schreyer in the sixth lap, taking up fifth place behind Wogrin. In the eighth lap, Wogrin went wide in Turn 8, letting Brakke around to run away with fourth place. Schreyer and Wogrin now battled for the final spot in the top 5, trading the position back and forth over the next several laps.
Up front, Prather was working on shaving hundredths off his lap times, setting the fast race lap of 2:29.047. He continued to drive near-perfect laps through to the end. At the checkered flag, it was Prather with 1.572 seconds over Reynolds, and Hainsworth another 20 seconds down in third. Brakke brought home a fourth-place finish, and Schreyer took fifth.
With Saturday’s victory, Prather has earned SCCA Super Sweep honors. He was the 2020 SCCA U.S. Majors Tour® Mid-States Conference champion, Hoosier Racing Tire SCCA Super Tour EP champion, and won at the Runoffs.
"I haven't been here [in Victory Circle] since 2008," Prather reflected. "I started my business in 2009 and focused on building the business. My engines not only power my own car, but also my friends Matt Reynolds, John Hainsworth, and Jon Brakke. My focus is always on my customers."
Reynolds had a plan to win, but just couldn't find a way to take the lead from Prather. "I could hang with Jesse in the first half of the race," Reynolds said, "and I was studying him for mistakes. But about halfway through I started losing the tires. Jesse ran a perfect race. Once he pulled the gap, I didn't have anything for him."
Hainsworth was glad to make the podium again. "Any time you're out there with three three-time national champions and you can run with them, you feel great," he said after the race.
Because EP has been around for decades, there are a great number of legacy cars that remain competitive. One of those earned this year's Sunoco Hard Charger award as Aaron Downey of Seal Beach, California recovered from qualifying challenges to start at the back of the 20-car field. Downey drove his No. 5 1976 Mazda RX-3SP up to 7th position to prove that the older cars are still competitive.
The 57th SCCA® National Championship Runoffs®, the Pinnacle of American Motorsports, crowns Sports Car Club of America’s Road Racing National Champions this year at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin’s Road America, Friday, Oct. 9 through Sunday, Oct 11.
Live, online video coverage of Runoffs races, presented by Mazda, is available throughout the three days of competition at SCCA.com/live along with an audio race call—supplied by the Super Tour Radio presented by Hoosier Racing Tire broadcast team—and live timing and scoring for each National Championship race.
Official results for Saturday's E Production race at the 57th SCCA National Championship Runoffs from Road America, with finish position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car and laps completed.
1, (1), Jesse Prather, Topeka, KS, BMW Z3 2.5L, 13.
2, (4), Matt Reynolds, Fair Oaks, TX, Mazda Miata, 13.
3, (3), John Hainsworth, Marlton, NJ, Mazda RX-7, 13.
4, (2), Jon Brakke, Fargo, ND, Mazda Miata, 13.
5, (5), Tim Schreyer, Dubuque, IA, BMW 325i/is E30, 13.
6, (6), Cameron Wogrin, Littleton, CO, BMW 328i/is E36, 13.
7, (20), Aaron Downey, Seal Beach, CA, Mazda RX-3SP, 13.
8, (7), William Lamkin, Broomfield, CO, BMW 328i/is E36, 13.
9, (15), Tim Anastopoulos, Kenosha, WI, BMW 325i/is E30, 13.
10, (9), Joe Carr, Petaluma, CA, Mazda Miata, 13.
11, (14), Aaron Johnson, Oakfield, NY, Honda S2000, 13.
12, (12), Lance Loughman, Bath, MI, Nissan 240Z, 13.
13, (11), Don Tucker, Memphis, TN, Mazda Miata, 13.
14, (16), Kurt Frietzsche, Mountain View, CA, Mazda RX-7, 12.
15, (19), Donald Walsh, Orrtanna, PA, Mazda RX-7, 12.
16, (18), Rich Olsen, Barrington, IL, Mazda RX-7, 12.
17, (8), Doug Piner, Hampstead, NC, BMW Z3 2.5L, 9.
18, (13), Anthony Jimerson, Vallejo, CA, Mazda RX-7, 6.
DNF, (10), Rob Hummel, McHenry, IL, Mazda RX-7, 1.
DNF, (17), Ron Olsen, Barrington, IL, Mazda RX-8, 1.
Length of Race: 53 miles
Overall Time of Race: 32:35.557 (96.876 mph)
Margin of Victory: 01.572 seconds
Fastest Race Lap: #34 Prather 2:29.047 (97.773 mph)
Lap Leaders: #34 laps 1-13
Sunoco Hard Charger: Aaron Downey
Photo: 2020 Runoffs E Production Champion Jesse Prather
Photo Credit: Jay Bonvouloir